U.S. B2B Exhibition Industry at a Standstill
DALLAS, 26 August 2020 – The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reports the U.S. business-to-business (B2B) exhibition industry came to a grinding halt in the second quarter of 2020. Growth plummeted nearly 100% from a year ago as practically no in-person trade shows have taken place. About 88% of events originally scheduled in the second quarter were cancelled; the remaining 12% of events were postponed and some of those events may eventually be cancelled as well. In comparison, inflation-adjusted GDP dropped 9.5% from a year ago (or declined at an annual rate of 32.9% from the previous quarter). GDP had been buffered by the reopening of various state economies and a snap back of economic activities from May onward.
Recent retail sales, durable goods orders and payroll employment indicate that on a quarter-over-quarter basis, GDP should have a sharp rebound, at an annual rate of about 19%, in the third quarter and continue to register robust growth in the fourth quarter. The previous peak of GDP in the fourth quarter of 2019 might be regained around the turn of 2022.
While many economic activities have recommenced, the exhibition industry largely remains closed. In the absence of a federally managed response to the health crisis, exhibitions are subjected to a patchwork of state and local limits on the number of people allowed in group gatherings or an outright prohibition against mass gatherings. Where gatherings are allowed, organizers must consider the social distancing requirements and hygiene protocols with which they must comply. Beyond state and municipal rules, many corporate “no travel” policies remain in place. It is cited as the number one reason why B2B exhibition organizers say they were forced to cancel, according to CEIR’s June poll. These policies mute participation potential. Other opinion polls tracking consumer sentiment record reluctance to travel, with air travel rebound still well below 2019 levels.
Despite these substantial headwinds, there are signals that trade show activity in the U.S. market is slowly reopening. A handful of events are recorded as taking place in July in locales including Dallas, Atlanta and Indianapolis.
To hear about the outlook for the B2B exhibition industry for the remainder of 2020 and beyond, interested readers are encouraged to attend CEIR’s Predict Conference, to be held on 22 September 2020. This year’s event is virtual and participation, typically restricted to C-level organizer executives, is open to all industry stakeholder executives. Click here for more information and to register.
“Historically, there is high correlation between GDP and the performance of the exhibition industry,” said CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. “This time around, the relationship is eclipsed. What has caused this disconnect will be discussed at CEIR Predict, as well as what this means for how long it will take for the industry to recover.”
“The exhibition industry is transforming and innovating itself with a rise in virtual or hybrid events to fill the void while physical events are paused,” added CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM. “Predict will explore and discuss this phenomenon, and other future looking trends highly likely to impact the industry moving forward. These insights are essential for any trade show industry executive looking to plan the way forward for 2021 and for the post-COVID-19 future.”
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) serves to advance the growth, awareness and value of exhibitions and other face-to-face marketing events by producing and delivering knowledge-based research tools that enable stakeholder organizations to enhance their ability to meet current and emerging customer needs, improve their business performance and strengthen their competitive position. For additional information, visit www.ceir.org. The annual CEIR Predict Conference will be held virtually on 22 September 2020. Predict will provide insights into the performance of the exhibitions industry and a forecast through year-end, along with an economic presentation by Alex Chausovsky of ITR Economics discussing how world events are expected to impact the global economy. Registration for the CEIR Predict Conference is now open. Complete details are available here.